Letisko Airport in Bratislava is very small. It has about three gates, and a mostly dirt parking lot that holds a just a few hundred cars. Trying to buy a bus ticket at 11:30PM from a ticket machine that was even confusing native Slovaks was not the easiest task. We finally got on the 61 bus to Hlavana Stanica. At the train station the 13 Metro was done for the night, so we had to drop 15 Euro on a taxi to the hostel but we were in a suspect part of town and the walk would have taken an hour, even if we knew the right way to go. When we got to the hostel we registered with the Slovak Police.
In Bratislava we saw the main city center. Old winding cobblestone streets, dotted with shops, restaurants, and pubs, give it a nice feel. The outskirts are all Soviet Bloc style apartments and factory type deals. Even the metro cars are old Soviet style. Outside the city center it feels like 1975. This was the primary reason I wanted to go to a place like this, was to feel old Europe behind the curtain, to see if capitalism is changing a place like Bratislava for the better?
In my opinion it is tough for capitalism to make quick changes in a place dominated by such a different style of government for so long. Yes, McDonalds will move in and billboards will flash the latest Levi’s jeans but society in general doesn’t really change. In fact it might hurt local morale when after a decade or two the locals don’t see the changes they thought would take place. Take for instance an old run down apartment. It is not feasible to tear it down and build a modern structure. What would happen to the tenants? Where would the money come from to build a new one? Life goes on and I can easily see how a society might want to just go back to the old way when they civilian population doesn’t see the changes they thought might materialize. These former Soviet satellite states still have a lot of work to do.